WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) -- A sense of inevitable war with Iran seized Israel as its two principal leaders -- Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak -- concluded 1) Iran is about to produce a nuclear bomb; 2) planned to use it to wipe out Israel; 3) the time for Israel to bomb Iran's nuclear production sites is early fall (i.e., at the height of the U.S. presidential campaign when neither candidate would risk losing by criticizing Israel).
Israel's three principal former intelligence directors -- Shin Bet, Mossad and army -- retired last year and came out strongly against a pre-emptive attack.
Israel's top general, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, also briefly disagreed with his boss the defense minister. He said diplomatic pressures and economic sanctions against Iran's mullahs are beginning to work.
Gantz was also quoted as saying Iran's decision-makers are "very rational."
Barak replied he was skeptical the pressures thus far had persuaded Tehran to change intentions about nuclear weapons, a secret drive that started shortly after the 1979 revolution.
Gantz then said he had been misquoted and got back on his boss' message: "The military force is ready. Not only our forces but other forces as well."
The difference between the two camps was one of timing. Gantz says there is no hurry this year. Netanyahu says the U.S. presidential campaign is critical. Not only would the Republican challenger, presumably Mitt Romney, and U.S. President Barack Obama refrain from chastening, they might even compete in praising.
A common thread in the thinking of Israel's former intelligence chiefs is Iran's capacity and capability for the kind of retaliatory actions that would mine and momentarily close the Hormuz Strait and drive oil prices skyward.
The United States recently deployed a second aircraft carrier task force in the Arabian Sea close to Hormuz and doubled the number of minesweepers from four to eight inside the Persian Gulf based at U.S. Navy 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain.
The United States also fielded an undisclosed number of fifth-generation stealth fighter-bomber F-22 Raptors to a base in the same general area, which could be Qatar, near Bahrain, where the U.S. leases a base with the longest runway in the Middle East.
U.S. military deployments in the general vicinity of Iran are designed to induce concessions as the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China) and Germany meet an Iranian team May 23 in Baghdad.
Another war at this juncture could deal a death blow to the European Union, now teetering on the edge of collapse, torn between austerity preached by Germany and northern European member nations, and printing more euros, which southern European states (Spain, Portugal, Greece) need to avoid collapse.
One-quarter of Spain's university graduates haven't found jobs in three years.
"The Tehran Triangle," a new page turner by former Air Force Secretary Thomas C. Reed (Ford and Carter administrations) with Sandy Baker, says we are looking at the wrong continent for Iran's nuclear eruption.
In the mid '70s, Reed was the youngest ever director of the National Reconnaissance Office whose very existence was held secret until the end of the Cold War. In the 1980s, Reed was a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan for national security policy.
He began his career during the years of Sputnik and the missile gap. He designed two thermonuclear weapons at Livermore that were test fired over the Pacific in 1963.
In "Triangle," a young, radicalized, second-generation American-Iranian couple is recruited to build a bomb outside El Paso, Texas. The other vertices of the triangle are Juarez and Tehran. A fast-moving CIA agent unravels the plot, a blend of the ease of crossing the southern border and Iran's hostility toward the United States circa 2012.
A total of 1,300 pounds of gold buys 1,300 pounds of refined uranium to build and detonate Iran's nuclear surprise in what the mullahs regard as the evil empire.
Meanwhile, in the real world Obama's quick roundtrip (26 hours of flying, 7 hours on the ground at Bagram Air Base near Kabul) was designed to wind down the longest war in U.S. history while at the same time pledging a close military alliance with Afghanistan for ten additional years after the 2014 exit of all combat forces.
In Obama's mind al-Qaida is still the principal enemy in Afghanistan. But this is a make-believe scenario. Al-Qaida was chased out of Afghanistan into Pakistan in the Battle of Tora Bora in early December 2001 -- 11 years ago. Taliban chief Mullah Omar and his terrorist guerrillas were crushed and Kabul liberated Nov. 14, 2001. That would have been a good time to declare victory -- and avoid a decade of warfare.
The first anniversary of the SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden May 2, 2011, reminds us that was another wasted opportunity. Like it or not, Taliban will have to be part of whatever deal can be negotiated.
Reputable polls indicate Afghans expressing a growing sense that the Taliban are now more moderate and the Afghan public supports a negotiated settlement with the guerrillas -- even if that means ceding government control of some provinces.
Almost half the people in this national survey say the Taliban have become more moderate, double the number three years ago.
Three-quarters of 30 million Afghans support a negotiated settlement that would allow Taliban guerrillas to hold political office, and 65 percent say they would accept a deal that gave Taliban control of some provinces.
Three-quarters, too, would agree to a settlement allowing Taliban guerrillas to serve in the armed forces, now entirely paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.
The forgoing stats don't mean Taliban are suddenly popular. Only 12 percent of Afghans see then favorably versus 72 percent for the Afghan government.
But all are tired of a decade of Soviet occupation (1979-89), followed by six years of civil war that brought Pakistan-funded and armed Taliban to power in 1996, followed by six years of Taliban's extremist religious dictatorship, coupled with al-Qaida's terrorist training camps, followed by 9/11, a U.S. invasion, the gradual arrival of 50 contributing nations, and eleven more years of guerrilla warfare.
The end of an era is near.